L’Amico del Prigionieri

Arthur Henry Patrick enlisted in the Australia Army 21st July 1941 and detached to Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp. On 20th March 1942 he was detached to the 3 POW Labour Detachment. 

3 POW Labour Detachment is also known as No. 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA. A group of 300 Italian prisoners of war from Hay PW Camp were assigned to work in 6 railway camps along the Trans Australian Railway Line. This labour detachment was approved on 13th March 1942 and the first group of Italian prisoners of war arrived on 8th April 1942.

Arthur Henry Patrick was a young man of similar age to the Italian POWs, having been born in 1919*. He was assigned to Camp 1, also known as Camp 1 The Plains SA.

His family donated photographs and two items to the Australian War Memorial.  It is thanks to Arthur Patrick that we have photographs of one of the camps and an understanding of the impact this Australia soldier had on the Italians: “His family relates that he developed a good relationship with many Italian POWs while he was guarding prisoners helping to build the railway line across the Nullarbor Desert. Such was his rapport with the Italian prisoners that he was presented with two hand crafted items, a tank carved from part of a railway sleeper and a belt that had been plaited from 18 pairs of boot laces.”

1943 Studio portrait of NX148826 Private (Pte) Arthur Henry Patrick, 9 Works Company. Pte Patrick.

The plaited belt made from shoelaces is new information for this project.  The Australia War Memorial records: “This belt is associated with the service of NX148826 Private Arthur Henry Patrick. This belt was made from leather bootlaces by Italian prisoners of war working on the railways in South Australia during the Second World War. The belt was presented as a gift to Patrick as a sign of regard from the prisoners and is said to have been made from 18 pairs of their bootlaces. At the time, Patrick was stationed at ‘The Plains No.1’ internment camp six miles outside of Watson in South Australia, supervising prisoners working on the track there. He had enlisted with the Militia in July 1941 and initially served at the prisoner of war camp in Cowra. He was transferred to 3 POW Labour Detachment in March 1942 and served with them until September. It was probably during this period that he received this belt. Patrick transferred to the AIF in March 1943 and was discharged from service in March 1946.”

c1942 Brown leather plaited belt with brass buckle. There are six stud holes in the tongue of the belt which is crafted out of plain leather. On the inside of the tongue the wearer’s name – ‘ARTHUR PATRICK’ – is written in black marker.

The Italians were resourceful. With little in the way of possessions and money, they found ways to make gifts from everyday items.  This belt is one such example. 

I wonder if the Australian Quartermaster found it odd that 18 men were asking for new shoelaces.

*The records do not register a camp number for the Italians.  But the youthfulness of the group is evident by this sample: Gennaro Agrimi 1918, Luigi Agnello 1919, Armando Accica 1920, Natale Vitale 1920, Alfredo Mattero 1918, Sergio Barigarriz 1920, Giuseppe Bruno 1920.

1 thought on “L’Amico del Prigionieri

  1. Pingback: L’Amico del Prigionieri — Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia | Ups Downs Family History

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